You are viewing the version of this documentation from Perl 5.40.0-RC1. This is a development version of Perl.

Arranges to have a SIGALRM delivered to this process after the specified number of wallclock seconds has elapsed. If SECONDS is not specified, the value stored in $_ is used. (On some machines, unfortunately, the elapsed time may be up to one second less or more than you specified because of how seconds are counted, and process scheduling may delay the delivery of the signal even further.)

Only one timer may be counting at once. Each call disables the previous timer, and an argument of 0 may be supplied to cancel the previous timer without starting a new one. The returned value is the amount of time remaining on the previous timer.

For delays of finer granularity than one second, the Time::HiRes module (from CPAN, and starting from Perl 5.8 part of the standard distribution) provides ualarm. You may also use Perl's four-argument version of select leaving the first three arguments undefined, or you might be able to use the syscall interface to access setitimer(2) if your system supports it. See perlfaq8 for details.

It is usually a mistake to intermix alarm and sleep calls, because sleep may be internally implemented on your system with alarm.

If you want to use alarm to time out a system call you need to use an eval/die pair. You can't rely on the alarm causing the system call to fail with $! set to EINTR because Perl sets up signal handlers to restart system calls on some systems. Using eval/die always works, modulo the caveats given in "Signals" in perlipc.

eval {
    local $SIG{ALRM} = sub { die "alarm\n" }; # NB: \n required
    alarm $timeout;
    my $nread = sysread $socket, $buffer, $size;
    alarm 0;
if ($@) {
    die unless $@ eq "alarm\n";   # propagate unexpected errors
    # timed out
else {
    # didn't

For more information see perlipc.

Portability issues: "alarm" in perlport.